Opening 13 Aug 2009
Writing credits: Mark Boal
Principal actors: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pierce, Ralph Fiennes
I never thought I would recommend a war film, but The Hurt Locker by Kathryn Bigelow is excellent. Sergeants James (Jeremy Renner) and Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), and specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), are elite soldiers who dismantle bomb detonators before they explode. This is not your defuse-the-World-War-II-sleeper-under-safest-conditions event which sometimes still occurs in Hamburg. These men are soldiers far from home in a hot, brown, culturally foreign country. New to the group, maverick Sergeant James makes no effort to fit in; he smokes and distains safety procedures. Sanborn confronts him and they slowly work out their differences. Eldridge is the worrywart who realistically expects to die any minute. The film clocks off their 38 days in the field where they sweat it out in dangerous situations, such as coping with a suicide bomber and confronting Blackwell-Halliburton-type mercenaries.
Once again I am reminded of WALL-E without the cuteness (as I mentioned in Terminator). The film even opens with a WALL-E robot on the blink, a situation which demands human intervention. It also opens with a quote by journalist Chris Hedges: “War is a drug” and, truly, James is addicted to his job. For him, dismantling a bomb is much less daunting than buying cereal in an American supermarket. Although director Bigelow is a woman, women have no place in this army. Sometimes we get lost in military-speak, e.g., “EOD” and “IED.” The hand-held camera is right on target to add to the suspense and pressure. The music is frugal; often the only sounds are fire in the background or calls from a minaret. The film’s biggest strength is that it is not limited to any specific war in any specific country; it is universal. The main premise concentrates on the thoughts and efforts of three men who, due to various circumstances, must work together. Actor Jeremy Renner is perfect in his role and cameo appearances by bigger names such as Ralph Fiennes are fine but superfluous. This is not just a guy film, and if your guy expresses an interest, just say, “Let’s go see it.” (You can take him to Cheri later.) It was filmed in Jordon and Vancouver. Draw your own conclusions about the meaning of “hurt locker.” Yahoo says it is a euphemism for “…physical or mental suffering.” Or perhaps it refers to the ominous white boxes at the beginning of the film. (Becky Tan)